Summer BOGO #3!

Have you been waiting to see what my newest summer BOGO will be? Well, the wait is over! For this week (from today through Saturday, 6/20/15), I have decided to offer a project BOGO. If you purchase my best-selling and highly-rated Probability Project, you will receive my Scale Model of the Solar System Project for free!

June BOGO 3

Both these projects are fabulous ways to assess your students’ understanding in a hands-on, authentic way. In the Probability Project (which is designed to take place at the END of a probability unit of study), students create their own carnival-style games, predict outcomes, play the games, record data, and analyze the data they’ve collected.

prob proj cover

In the Solar System Project (which is designed to take place at the END of a unit teaching scale and scientific notation), students research the planet sizes and distances from the sun in our solar system. Then, they create a scale model of the solar system and discuss (through writing) their processes.

scale model solar system

My students LOVED both of these projects, and I’m sure yours will, too. They are aligned to CCSS (Math), but would apply to any state’s standards regarding probability, scale, and scientific notation.

Depending on your standards and curriculum, these projects would be appropriate for students in grades 6-9.

I hope you’re having a great summer!

Follow this link to the BOGO offer!

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Summer BOGO #2!!!

Maybe last week’s BOGO wasn’t for you. Maybe you teach something other than math. Maybe you teach English/Language Arts. Maybe you teach a subject where you teach students about non-fiction writing (persuasive, informative, research). Even if you’re not an ELA teacher, you are still (if your state has CCCS or something like it) responsible for teaching writing in the content area. But writing is a skill, and it’s a difficult one to master for many students. For many struggling writers, teaching writing in small, manageable chunks can make learning how to be a better writer more accessible. For many struggling writers, visual examples of what good writing should look like can make learning how to be a better writer an easier process.

For example, when teaching students how to write essays or papers, instead of simply assigning a paper (topic, prompt, etc.) and grading the finished result, try assigning specific parts one at a time. Spend a bit of time (1-2 days) just on writing quality thesis statements. Once students have mastered that, move on to instruction on additional components of the paper.

For example, pick an arbitrary topic and write an outline for a paper, talking about the process out loud to your students as you go through and write. Present students with sample topics to mock-outline to practice. Then when you assign the real topic, they’ll feel comfortable with making their own outline and produce a better end product.

For example, pick an arbitrary topic and write an essay, color coding the various elements (thesis statement – original or restated is red; supporting details are green; transition words are blue; arguments are yellow; refutations are orange; etc.). Then show students how the elements fit together so they can see how a thesis threads through a whole paper, or where transition words should appear, etc.

Of course, give your students consistent feedback using some sort of writing rubric. It might be your state’s writing rubric, but you might want something a bit simpler for less involved writing assignments.

Do these things sound like something you’d like to have or do in your classroom next year? Well, you are in luck! This week’s summer BOGO is a writing resource package. Purchase my best-selling and highly-rated How to Write a Basic Thesis Statement lesson and receive my best-selling and highly-rated Sample Outline for a Research Paper, my Writing Rubrics, and my Color-Coded Essay for free! This BOGO is only available through Saturday, June 13, so click on the link now to take advantage!

June BOGO 2

Summer Writing BOGO!

Making Poetry Meaningful

I am a poetry snob. Perhaps one could call me uncultured, but I am very picky about the poetry I choose to read. To be perfectly honest, I really only enjoy two poets: Edgar Allen Poe, and myself. Well, in general. There are isolated poems from various poets that I enjoy. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (Tennyson), “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” (Dickenson), and a few others. So suffice it to say that I empathized with my students when it came time for our poetry unit each year. Writing poetry comes easily to me, but that’s not the case for most students. In fact, in my years of teaching English, I found that the predominant reason for my students disliking poetry was that they struggled with writing it. Also, they’d had countless other teachers who had made them memorize and recite poems (I won’t editorialize on that practice…the fact that I NEVER made my students memorize and recite poetry in my class should speak for itself), which mostly served to turn them off of poetry completely.

I found that they also struggled with identifying different poetic devices within poems and analyzing poetry for any sort of meaning. Often, this was due to the fact that the poets they were forced to read were dry and confusing. What if my students were just like me? What if the poet they would enjoy reading the most were themselves? How could I get my students to write meaningful poems when they didn’t know how to write poetry?

First, I started small. I had to disabuse my students of the notion that all poetry had to rhyme or have some set rhythm and meter. That was difficult. Once I got that through their heads, though, I would show them examples of acrostic poems. I always had my students begin with an acrostic poem of their name. Eventually, the majority of my students were able to construct a reasonable attempt at an acrostic poem.

To help them understand rhyme and rhythm (and meter) I would use songs/song lyrics. This is also how I taught the poetic device: refrain. The jump from song to poem was easy with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” I found (in my biased opinion, of course) that the best poems for teaching meter/rhythm were Poe’s poems. My two favorites are “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven.” Incidentally, when my own middle school teacher required that we choose a poem to memorize and recite, I chose “The Raven” simply to be obnoxious. It was the longest one I thought I could actually memorize. I got about 3 stanzas in before she forced me to stop and sit down. Yeah, I was “that kid.”

Occasionally, I would give the traditional quiz on the various poetic devices, but I never gave an end-of-unit test. Instead, I wanted what they’d learned to be meaningful to them. From the onset of the unit, I let them know that they would be creating their very own poetry product: a calendar. I would usually have it be the full next calendar year, January-December, although, that might change based on the time of year during which the poetry unit was taught.

I picked 11 of the most important (to me, as the teacher; the most prolific, common, whatever you want to call them) poetic devices we studied during the unit. Then, I told students that they would be responsible for writing their own poems for each month: one poem per month; one device per poem. The 12th month/poem was a free choice for them. I encouraged them to relate the poem to the month, season, or event that occurred during the month. I strongly suggested they think about personal connections to months: birthdays, family trips/vacations, etc. Of course I gave them the major holidays (New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas), but also suggested things like winter break, spring break, exams, summer break, back to school, etc.

I printed out the calendars for them and gave them free reign to decorate them according to their poems (if it focused on a birthday, then they would label that day on the calendar and illustrate it appropriately; if it was Valentine’s Day, same thing). They left ample space for their poems on each month.

I found that the vast majority of my students responded well to this authentic task. I had lots of students who would decide to give the calendar as a gift to a parent or relative (depending on the time of year you can suggest it as a Mother’s Day gift or a holiday gift for a parent/relative). Many of them expressed their excitement that the calendar would be hanging somewhere (on the fridge, in a parent/relative’s office, etc.), and they put in quite a bit of effort. It became meaningful to them. They suddenly were able to write poetry because they had a purpose and context. Over the years I got some very poignant, touching work (Veteran’s Day poems, poems to grandparents or others who had died, etc.). Not all of the poetry was going to win awards, but the students took the assignment seriously and did a reasonably good job. I was easily able to tell who had mastered the various poetic devices and other literary concepts.

The best part about this assignment was that it could be tailored to any level. I started with it in 7th grade and used it all the way up through my high school students. I had poems as simple as limericks and haikus all the way up to full-blown Shakespearean sonnets. And not only did the kids (many of them, anyway) actually enjoy writing the poems, but they (dare I say “all”?) enjoyed coloring and illustrating the months in the calendar. And I was able to photocopy the best ones to keep and display in my room that year and use as examples in subsequent years.

Creating the calendar (in its entirety – writing the poems, illustrating the pages, etc.) usually took about 2 weeks. Sometimes less, depending on the students, but never more. With my honors kids, I would often assign a certain amount as homework so it didn’t stretch too far into class time. I found that the kids needed my help, though, in many cases, so I shied away from assigning the whole (or majority of) thing as homework.

If this sounds like something you’d like to do in your classroom, you are in luck. I’ve already created the templates and rubrics for the project. All you have to do is decide which poetic devices you want to assess.

Click here for the Poetry Calendar Project.

Happy Pi Day!

pi day sale

Tomorrow is Pi Day, and it’s time to celebrate! I will be throwing a Pi Day sale and all my math products will be 15% off! It’s the perfect time to pick up a PowerPoint or a project! I hope you’ll stop by! Here are all the products that are on sale (by category):

CCSS-aligned 3rd grade PowerPoints:

Basic area & perimeter

Bar graphs

Recognizing and drawing polygons

Estimation basics

CCSS-aligned 4th grade PowerPoints:

Basic area & perimeter

Estimation basics

CCSS-aligned 5th grade PowerPoints:

Line graphs & scatterplots

Order of operations & inverse operations

Recognizing & drawing polygons

Estimation basics

CCSS-aligned 6th grade PowerPoint Lessons:

Number Systems:

Adding & subtracting decimals

Multiplying decimals

Dividing decimals

Dividing fractions by fractions

Greatest common factor

Least common multiple

Integers and absolute value

Long division

Ordering & comparing integers

The entire Number Systems bundle

Expressions & Equations:

Equivalent expressions

Evaluating exponents

Identifying patterns & writing algebraic expressions & equations

Independent vs. dependent variables

Reading, writing, & evaluating algebraic expressions

Solving 1-step variable equations by addition & subtraction

Solving 1-step variable equations by multiplication & division

The entire Expressions & Equations bundle

Geometry:

Measuring length, area, & volume

Ratios & Proportions:

Ratios & proportional relationships – calculating unit rates

Ratios & proportions

Statistics:

Finding measures of central tendency

The entire 6th grade bundle

CCSS-aligned 7th grade PowerPoints:

The Number System:

Adding integers

Subtracting integers (Brand New!!!)

Multiplying and dividing integers

Expressions & Equations:

Solving 2-step, 1-variable equations

Ratios & Proportions:

Ratios & proportional relationships – proportional relationships

Statistics & Probability:

Creating & using tree diagrams

Probability basics: a PowerPoint lesson

CCSS-aligned 8th grade PowerPoints:

Expressions & Equations:

Integer exponents

Perfect squares and cubes

Functions:

Introducing functions

Geometry:

Angle relationships

Pythagorean Theorem

Similarity & congruence

Volume

The entire 8th grade Geometry bundle

Statistics & Probability:

Direct & indirect relationships

Rational & irrational numbers

Non-CCSS-aligned PowerPoints:

Circle graphs

Measuring length, area, & volume

Stem & leaf diagrams & line plots

Precision vs. accuracy

Statistics bundle

Basic standard deviation, distribution curves, and statistics

Double bar graphs & horizontal bar graphs

Finding percents of numbers

Basic Geometry review bundle

Converting among fractions, decimals, & percents

Recognizing polyhedrons & parts

Extending algebraic patterns

Qualitative vs. quantitative data

Projects:

Geometry in nature scavenger hunt

Probability activities, lessons, & project bundle

Stock market project

Scale model of the solar system project

Theoretical & experimental probability project

Algebra I products:

Fun puzzles for Algebra I

Other:

Math worksheets

Teachers are Heroes!

It’s true, teachers really are heroes! Teachers are leaders, nurses, parents, psychologists, social workers, friends, confidants, and so much more. If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to check out Teachers Pay Teachers, it has arrived! Today (only for a few more hours!) everything on the site – in every single store! – is at least 10% off! My store has everything 28% off! That’s right! If you’ve been eyeing that perfect lesson, activity, or resource, now is the time to stop by and stock up! There probably won’t be another sale until my birthday (that’s all the way in April, people!), so get test prep, Common Core and LAFS resources, math lessons, writing resources, reading activities, and so much more! And don’t forget, there’s a TON of free stuff on the site, too – not just my store, but hundreds – thousands (literally, there are over 70K stores on TpT!) – of stores with something for everyone. So no matter what or you teach – in a classroom K-12, early childhood, college, or even homeschool, there is something for you! Head on over and check it out!

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Get your teaching resources while the getting is good!

Teaching with Power Point in the Middle School Math Classroom

First of all, I want to apologize for being a little lax with my posting. My day job has been especially hectic for the past month or so and it has just been really difficult to find time to write an entry and get it up on time. So I’m sorry for that. I’ve also done quite a few entries highlighting ELA topics, so this week, I’ve decided to focus on math.

When I first began teaching, I started as a middle school math teacher. My first two years were as a 7th grade pre-Algebra and 8th grade Algebra I Honors teacher. I found that my students did not have the first clue about how to take notes, and it was very difficult to get them to stay on task and listen to what I was saying. I found this more problematic with my “regular” pre-Algebra 7th grade students. I also was involved in a lot of outside-the-classroom activities like district assessment panels, professional development, etc., and I missed a LOT of school. I had a LOT of substitutes. I had to overcome the challenges I was facing.

I found the answer to this through Power Point lessons. I created Power Point lessons for various topics we were studying, and began teaching with them. It was like a miracle had happened in my classroom. Students began taking notes (pretty decent ones, really – the Power Points actually taught them note-taking skills), they began sitting and listening, and it was easy for the subs because all they had to do was play the Power Point and walk the kids through the lesson. Of course, I answered questions when I got back and assessed their understanding, but usually the re-teaching and clarification needed was minimal.

I was SO happy with the success of my Power Points in my 7th grade class, that I began using them the next year with my special 8th grade students who had taken Algebra I as 7th graders and didn’t have any other math classes to take. Our middle school didn’t offer Geometry and there were no high schools close enough to bus them to take the course there, so I told my administration I’d create a curriculum for them that taught/dealt with lots of advanced math topics and would prepare them for Geometry. It was really cool. We did a lot of Geometry prep work (you know, the fun stuff like postulates and theorems!) but we also did some advanced (for 8th graders) Statistics work like standard deviation. There were only 6 of them and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had teaching. Anyway, I started using Power Point lessons with them as well, and they worked very nicely.

I have since become much more familiar with the PPT software and have updated my old PPT lessons and created new ones. The majority of my lessons are now (with the new CCSS) aligned with 6th grade topics, but I do have PPT lessons aligned with other grades’ standards. Additionally, the lessons that are now “6th grade” could certainly be used with other grade levels either for remediation or enrichment. I have so many of these PPT lessons that I have bundled them by standard. I have a set of 6th grade PPT lessons that are all aligned to the Number System standards.

Another great benefit of these lessons is that it is a way to incorporate technology into lessons. Many teachers find it difficult to use lots of the new technology, but on most new teacher evaluations, the use of technology is a component of being rated an “outstanding” (or some high-level) instructor. PPT is a very easy technology to use: all my lessons require no knowledge of the software other than how to open the file and use the arrow keys or mouse (or remote clicker, if you have one) to advance the slides or go backwards. In this bundle there are ten lessons:

  • Adding and subtracting decimals
  • Multiplying decimals
  • Dividing decimals
  • Greatest common factor
  • Least common multiple
  • Dividing fractions by fractions
  • Long division
  • Ordering integers
  • Integers and absolute value
  • Inverse numbers and operations

Each lesson follows an “I do,” “We do,” “You do” model. There is instruction/examples, guided practice, and independent practice in each lesson. There are visual examples and whenever possible, I try to use “real-life” examples. If you are working on any of these concepts this semester, this bundle may be for you! All of these lessons are available separately, but you save some money by buying the bundle.

If you don’t teach 6th grade or if these concepts aren’t being covered this semester, don’t worry! I have over 60 math products for grades ranging from 3rd to 9th! Power Points aren’t the only thing I do, either, so if they aren’t your cup of tea, there’re lots of other things you could check out!

2015 Mad Eye Moody Productions 6th grade number systems bundle

Check out the bundle!

Common Core Practice, Anyone?

My entry this week is an explanation of my newest product: the CIM for Common Core CCSS.ELA.6.4 – the figurative language standard. This CIM (Continuous Improvement Model) takes students through an “I Do,” “We Do,” “You Do” model. It focuses on standard 4, which is “Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.” It is also appropriate for the LAFS.6.RL.2.4 (Language Arts Florida Standards).

There is a little bit of (controversy isn’t the right word) variation in how to interpret this standard. In my work with teachers, as well as curriculum specialists and other administrators, I have found that some interpret this standard as including (at the secondary level – grades 6-12) questions that ask students to identify figurative language devices. For example, “Which figurative device is used in stanza 1?” The student then answers “simile,” or whatever the appropriate device is. Others, however, do not feel that basic device identification meets the standard at the secondary level unless it is accompanied by a “Part B” question asking about what the device means. For example: “Part A: Which figurative device is used in the first stanza?” and then “Part B: What does the author mean by this figurative device?” Still others, though, contend that the identification of the figurative device does not belong with standard 4 at all, and is, instead, a “content or domain-specific” language question belonging in the Language standards (CCSS.L.6). I’m not (nor is anyone else I know of) sure exactly how the various testing companies (PARCC, Smarter Balanced, FSA, etc.) are going to interpret this standard. Therefore, I have included these styles of questions in this product. Each day students get a couple of questions, one of which asks them to identify various figurative devices. These questions are followed up with the meaning of those devices or the impact they have on the poem (in terms of tone, mood, etc.).

There are 3 lessons designed to take 5 days. Lessons one and two take roughly 15-20 minutes total, so spread over two days, each lesson lasts 7-10 minutes. All together, you get 5 days of a 7-10 minute lesson each day. This makes it perfect for a daily opener or bell work. The idea behind it is that the teacher demonstrates, guides, and assesses, and then uses the results to inform instruction and the need (or not) to reteach. It is ideal for additional practice or remediation to see how well the initial lessons or instruction has gone.

Sound intriguing? Check it out!

6th grade FCIM RL4

End Game

So, I am a very competitive person (which may or may not come as a shock to my followers…), and I loved every opportunity to challenge my students in competition. That may be your classroom style; it may not. However, one of the things I created for my Algebra I Honors class is something I am especially proud of and I wanted to share about it. The concept is simple enough; you could use it for any mathematical concept – or any other content area. It’s the puzzle. I got the idea from a little Christmas puzzle my parents have that I played with every year. It had 9 squares, and on each edge of each square there was either the top or bottom half of a penguin. They had different hats, scarves, jackets, and other items so you could tell which top went with which bottom. There were lots of wrong ways to solve the puzzle, but only one right way. I took this idea and converted it into a math puzzle. I put equations and answers on corresponding edges. I made copies of the puzzles, cut them up, and put them into envelopes. Then, I put students into teams. Finally, I let them try to solve the puzzle, and whichever team did it first got some sort of prize (usually extra points on an upcoming quiz or test). It takes a little ground work on the front end, but this was something they LOVED and would do (willingly) and stay focused on again and again throughout various units during the year. Here’s a visual sample of what a puzzle might look like (this isn’t one of the ones I have in my puzzle packet, so if you like it, consider it a bonus for being a follower/reader of my blog). Of course this has 9 squares, but to make it more difficult, you could make it 16 squares and less difficult with 4 squares. The colors in the center are the “key” so you don’t have to check the math. This is essential for higher level stuff like quadratic equations, factoring polynomials, etc.

algebra puzzles sample

Games are fun for kids at any age. It’s a great way for students to learn without “realizing” it. Whether you do something like this, an activity like my row races, my theoretical probability project, or some other game, be prepared for your students to enjoy it and ask to do it frequently. Of course, you can’t just play games every day, but incorporating them into your lessons has benefits that will be evident long after the games stop.

By the way, these puzzles were used by my 8th grade Algebra I Honors students, so I believe they would be successful in the 7-10 grades range.

Algebra puzzles

Fun Algebra Puzzles

 

Imagery

First of all, I want to apologize for having a bit of a late post. With back-to-school looming, things have been crazy, as everyone knows.

Second, I want to let everyone know that TeachersPayTeachers is having their annual Back To School sale, and that I am running a sale to coincide, making everything in my store 28% off! Most sellers are doing the exact same thing, so check it out and get great deals on classroom management resources, math Power Point lessons and other activities, and ELA reading and writing products. Here is my store.

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When I taught writing to my students, I was constantly struggling with getting them to “show not tell.” If you’re a new English teacher and you haven’t heard that phrase, you will hear it soon, and often. One of the best things I learned about effective writing is that the power is in the verbs, not the adjectives. I’ve see teachers do “dead word” walls and activities, which I think are fantastic. Descriptive writing, however, requires students to “show” the reader. It requires them to craft their writing in such a way that the reader can relate to it himself and experience it as he reads. The use of imagery engages the reader because they can picture, smell, feel, taste, and hear what the author is writing.

Getting students to use effective imagery, however, is a daunting task. Ask a student to describe something and you’ll invariably get the most flat, one-dimensional words imaginable: “red,” “big,” “small,” “hot,” you get the picture. Words that are so vague they don’t really mean anything to the reader. To get students writing with better imagery, I ask follow up questions about their descriptions.

1) One question to ask is “how” or “which”. The student writes, “Her dress was red.” I ask, “Which shade of red?” The student writes “The house was big.” I ask, “How big was it?”

2) Another question I ask is “than what?” The student writes, “The car was small.” I ask, “Smaller than what?”

3) Ask “how do I know?” The student writes, “She was mad.” I ask, “How do I know she is mad?”

This type of questioning forces the student to be more specific in their descriptions, and I doing so, makes their writing more relatable to the reader.

There is a great activity that I do to help students branch out in their descriptions as they write. It takes a little while, but it’s worth it.

1) Each student will need a paper and pencil.

2) You will need several objects that have very distinct characteristics of the five senses.

3) You can divide the students into between 2 and 5 groups. 2 groups will allow students to experience more opportunities for sensory writing, but 5 groups will take a little less time overall.

4) Each group will get at least 1 object. The object should have a characteristic that clearly relates to one of the five senses.

5) The members of the group will INDIVIDUALLY describe the object with the condition that the person they are describing it to is missing (and has always been missing) that one (or you could do multiple) sense. For example, if the object was a bottle of perfume, the students would have to describe the scent of the perfume to someone who cannot (and never could) smell.

a. It’s important that students understand the person they’re describing to has never been able to use that sense. This will prevent them from giving flat descriptions. For example, if they have to describe an object to someone who cannot and has never been able to see, using the word “blue” means nothing. They have to come up with other words to describe the color. You get really cool descriptions.

6) Once each student has his/her description, the other group(s) listens to the description and tries to predict what the object will look/smell/sound/taste/feel like. For smell, taste, touch, and hearing, writing down the prediction is nearly impossible, but students will still be able to decide afterwards if the description was accurate/helpful. For the sense of sight, make sure students sketch the object based on the descriptions written by their classmates before showing them the actual object.

7) After the description is read and the opposing group(s) experience the original object, have them write 2 separate responses:

a. How accurate were their classmates’ descriptions? Why do they think the descriptions were as accurate (or un-) as they were?

b. What would his/her own description be for someone who was void of that sense?

Enjoy the rest of the summer!